For the first time, users of Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets will soon be able to purchase books, game and app upgrades, and other media from within mobile
applications, a convenient feature with rich revenue potential for developers as well as Barnes & Noble. It will also help drive a platform that has been struggling for greater share in a busy tablet market against more-functional devices powered by Google's Android and Apple's iOS.
In its media announcement Monday, Barnes & Noble did not announce a date for when the capability would be available, saying only, "In the coming weeks and months, thousands of the most-requested games and apps featuring in-app purchasing will be available for customers to experience on...the 7-inch Nook HD and 9-inch Nook HD+."
Mobile payments company Fortumo will facilitate the transactions.
"We are thrilled to bring in-app purchasing to Nook with Fortumo for our community of developers so they can foster a profitable relationship with their customers, while also providing our Nook customers with a more in-depth app experience and an even wider selection of popular apps," said Claudia Romanini, vice president of Nook Apps and Nook Media, in a statement.
According to the research firm IDC, Barnes & Noble shipped 1 million Nook devices in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 1.4 million in the same quarter of 2011. And the device's market share dropped sharply in the 2012 quarter to 1.9 percent from 4.2 percent a year earlier.
Apple, of course, remains king of the tablet market with 42 percent of the market for its iPad, though it slipped year-over-year from 51.7 percent, while Samsung, which has a vast range of Android tablet offerings, more than doubled its share from 7.3 percent to 15.1 percent in that same period.
Adding more functionality to the Nook is a way to catch up with the competition.
Better Late than Never
"So far as I know, all the other tablet vendors -- Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft -- offer in-app purchasing options of various kinds for their platforms," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told us. "In fact, Microsoft introduced it earlier this month. Since B&N is somewhat late to the party, the decision to announce it without an availability date may simply mark this as a 'statement of direction' that addresses any concerns customers and developers might have."
He said the announcement would please application developers who rely on in-app purchasing to "sell up," or get users to upgrade from free to paid versions of titles or purchase bonus content, such as better capabilities in games.
"You could also argue that this marks a significant point in the evolution of digital readers from standalone to multipurpose devices," King added. "It won't surprise me if Amazon eventually becomes the lone provider of standalone readers, and for those devices to eventually be supplanted by multipurpose tablets across the board."